Energy efficient technologies, alternative energy sources and community partnerships are guiding the vision toward 100 per cent renewable power on Haida Gwaii.
An energy partnership between Skidegate and Old Massett Village Council – Tll Yahda Energy (TYE) – aims to expand and build clean energy projects on Haida Gwaii. With $10.4 million in funding from Natural Resources Canada, TYE will also give the two communities ownership in the Island’s hydroelectric generating station, with partners Atlantic Power and NRCan.
An expansion of the power facility at Mitchell Inlet, expected to be completed by fall 2021, will help reduce diesel
dependency and allow the partners to sell hydroelectricity back to BC Hydro, according to Devin Rachar, Climate Action Coordinator for the Skidegate Band Council.
“We’re trying to tackle the diesel problem together. As part of the ownership group, the communities will have some influence over the operations and the relationship with BC Hydro,” says Rachar. “It’s important for both communities to have a role in energy production – where it comes from, how it’s produced – to help guide the energy direction on Haida Gwaii.”
The goal of reaching 100 per cent renewable energy by 2023 was set in the “People’s Clean Energy Declaration for
Haida Gwaii” signed by the Haida Nation, Village Councils, Hereditary Leaders and municipal and regional governments in 2018.
Kevin Brown, Climate Action Coordinator for Old Massett, says climate change impacts, spurred on by carbon emissions, are evident on local food systems and weather. “There’s lots of erosion – the sea is definitely rising. We haven’t been able to get food fish from our primary rivers, or only very limited returns, so that’s disconcerting for sure,” he says. “The weather patterns and winds are changing, making it difficult for small boats to fish in Old Masset. It’s also getting dryer.”
Tll Yahda Energy has also secured funding and selected a site for construction of a two-megawatt solar farm on the north end of Haida Gwaii – enough to supply the equivalent of roughly 200 households.
“The solar farm is getting the northern grid off diesel, something we’ve been trying to do since 2006,” explains
Brown. “It’s really cool to be a part of something that addresses the problem. Usually you dream all these dreams
and there’s no money.”
Along with the dam expansion and solar farm, he says, planning for wind and biomass projects will round out the
energy requirements of the Island. “These four sources will make up for what diesel currently does.”
“Most everyone on Haida Gwaii is of the same mind regarding climate change and fossil fuel use and greenhouse gasses,” says Rachar. “We’re all working toward a clean energy future.” When it comes to usage and shipping to a remote island, he says, “Diesel is expensive, it’s dangerous, it’s dirty.”
An Island-wide energy plan, currently in development, will provide the roadmap to 100 per cent renewable energy use on Haida Gwaii. According to the Climate Action Coordinators for both communities, the Skidegate Band Council has already completed a project to install heat pumps in almost every home, and Old Massett is working toward the installation of 200 new heat pumps in the community.
Rachar says a study, underway in Skidegate, will also help determine future climate effects and find ways to protect
shorelines from erosion and other sea rise impacts.